ATLANTA — Yamil Asad does not have the name recognition of some of his Atlanta United teammates. He has not featured for his national team. He is trying to bounce back after recent struggles for playing time in his native Argentina. He was not expected to be the first goalscorer in Atlanta United history or the first Man of the Match (as voted on by the fans). Few would have predicted that he would be the first to have the honor of hammering the Golden Spike.
However, it was Asad who shone brightest for Atlanta United in their season opener last weekend. Early in the preseason, questions revolved around how much playing time Asad might be able to get as others looked to be ahead of him on the depth chart. His highlight reel goal in preseason in Chattanooga opened some eyes.
His header against Charleston solidified his spot in the starting lineup. But it was his performance in the opener that won the hearts of the Atlanta United nation.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder joined the team in early January on loan from Vélez Sarsfield. Asad made his professional debut at 18. What made that even more special was that his father Omar is a legend at the club. Omar Asad won eight trophies with Vélez, none more special than the 1994 Intercontinental Cup title over Italian giants AC Milan, where Omar was named the Man of the Match and scored the winning goal. Yamil’s great-uncle Julio also starred for Vélez in the 1970s.
Those are some big shoes to fill, and Yamil Asad struggled to do that at times during his time with Vélez. His true breakout year came in 2015, where he scored four goals and notched two assists in 24 games. Argentine media tabbed Asad as a young player to watch going forward.
Vélez Sarsfield is one of the most successful clubs in Argentina. Founded in 1910, they have won 15 major trophies since 1993. With that success comes pressure, and with that pressure comes coaching changes if things do not go well. Asad seemed to get lost in the shuffle of managers coming and going. A fresh start was needed, and Tata Martino gave him a lifeline in Atlanta.
After falling out of favor with some fans at his boyhood club, Asad has appreciated the support of his new city, Atlanta. He has made fast friends with fellow South Americans Miguel Almirón, Tito Villalba, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Josef Martinez, and Carlos Carmona. The group, dubbed La Banda, took in the Hawks game Monday night:
After Sunday’s game, he told the assembled media (through a translator):
“It’s a tremendous thing for the city that they have a team here that tries to win it, give it their all and for the fans. It really helps us. They push us through thick and thin. We got off to a slow start now and hope to start winning games.”
He has not been here long, but Yamil Asad has already made his mark in Atlanta United history. As one of the team’s most impressive attacking players thus far, Sunday appears to be only the start of a successful season in our city for him.